When Allison Borsuk applied for the YATOM Family Fellowship last year, she was considering adopting a child. She always knew she wanted to be a mother and, at age 38 and single, she decided to move forward with her plan.
Her rabbi told her about YATOM, a national Jewish foster and adoption network founded in June 2016 by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash. YATOM debuted the fellowship last year to help provide support for Jewish parents planning to adopt or foster a child.
During the one-year fellowship, fellows participate in video conferences focused on guiding and supporting Jewish families, couples and individuals through the complex process of qualifying to become a foster and/or adoptive parent. These workshops feature national and international experts who provide insight into the process, and fellows also learn about welcoming a child into a Jewish home. Participants who complete the fellowship receive a stipend.
In January of this year, Borsuk, who lives in Fairfield, California, was approved to be a foster parent and now has a nursery set up in her two-bedroom apartment. Since then, she has fostered four babies — the youngest was 2 days old and the oldest 20 months. Each one was in her home for seven days — the maximum stay for emergency placement in California, she said. She is a full-time social work student, and some days she brought the baby with her to school and other days her parents stepped in (they were approved to watch foster children, as well).
“It’s being a single mom — you make it work however you can,” she said.
Before starting the YATOM program, Borsuk never considered fostering a child.
“I never thought I’d be strong enough to welcome a child in and then let them go,” she said.
Ultimately, she wants to adopt and she now has a significant other who is also open to adoption.
Eight families were in the first cohort, including one couple from Arizona, Shari and Gary Horowitz. They were already in the process of filling out paperwork from the Arizona Children’s Association when Gary saw information about YATOM on his Facebook newsfeed last summer. They contacted YATOM that evening to apply.
“It felt like it was really meant to be that we were finally ready to move forward and this popped up,” Shari said.
They were recently certified and are now approved to adopt. The couple has one daughter, Alexa, who turns 7 this month.
“She knows we are adopting and tells everyone we meet,” Shari said. “She can’t wait to be an older sister.”
Valley Beit Midrash recently announced a new group of cohorts that will start their journey this fall.
“After the amazing success we experienced during our first year, we are thrilled to be able support another group of families, allowing us to continue our mission to incentivize and support their personal journeys, which are committed to providing safe and loving homes for vulnerable children,” said Yanklowitz, in a press release.
In the second cohort are Valley residents Allison and Alex Benezra, and Alli Goozh; Jordan and Danielle Felsberg of North Carolina; Rebecca Handler-Spitz of Minnesota; Alexandra and Adam Kofinas of Georgia; Jennifer and Stewart Latwin of Maryland; Samara Meir-Levi of California; Alyssa and Andy Stern of Texas; and Joanie Zecherle of California.
Borsuk’s advice to the incoming cohort is: “Trust your gut. Trust in yourself. You’ll be humbled. Your heart will be expanded yet broken. You are on a wonderful path to bringing more love into your own life. … Be ready to learn a lot about yourself through the process and be open to those lessons.”
The fellowship is made possible by community grants, contributions and a collaboration with the Jewish Fertility Foundation. To learn more about YATOM, visit yatom.org. JN